Nature Deficit Disorder

The last few posts of mine got me to thinking about how I best relax from my own inner intensity.  I usually take time out to go hiking in natural spaces.  But it snowed again today, and though I’d gone out for a while in the car (kinda scary, folks), it wasn’t a really comfortable temperature to go walking in.  Besides, I think my oldest daughter wore my boots to school.

I wrote this post a while back on another blog…and I wanted to share it here (I don’t think I have already).

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It is my very humble opinion that much of our world’s current malaise is due to what Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, coined as “Nature Deficit Disorder”.

Getting out in nature has always been an experience that I treasured, from the time I was a little girl.  I was born in the Midwest, but when I was 7, my mother and step-father moved us to New Mexico.  We spent some time up in the Sandia Mountains.  Every winter, we’d make the treacherous trek up the mountain to cut down a Christmas tree on a small parcel of land my parents owned.  As some of my readers already know, I didn’t get along with my family very much, but I am so glad they took us into the mountains as children.

When we would go visit my biological father in Colorado, he and my stepmother would take us to the local reservoir to muck around in.

When I had difficulties as a sensitive teenager in a home that was filled with lots of fighting between my parents, I’d retreat to my favorite two places.  I’d stop off at the library to grab a book, then take it into the forest preserve behind the library to read.  It was a wonderful way to soothe myself from the difficulties I went through with my family.

As a mother of three daughters I make it a point to take my children out to natural places at least a couple of times a month.  Sadly, aside from our small park and softball fields, we don’t have any forest preserves within walking distance, and though I think that is a shame, I am not going to complain too much.  At least we have a few beautiful places within driving distance.

I wanted to share a few photographs of places we love.

We’ve been going to a mapping tree tapping event (clicking the link will take you to my science blog, The Exploration Station to see some pictures of this event) at a local forest preserve each March to learn about how maple syrup is produced.

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This is our local arboretum that we visit multiple times a year.  We bought a family membership so now we go quite a lot.  This shot was taken on Earth Day in April of 2o12.

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This small canyon is part of a state park in Illinois known as Starved Rock. The area has many small canyons and is rich in history too.  We took the girls for the first time in 2012 and again in 2013 during spring break and we loved it.

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One of my absolute favorite shots of my in the forest at Starved Rock was this one with middlest daughter.

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A few years back, we traveled by train to go visit my dad in Colorado and we made a stop at the Garden of the Gods to do some hiking with the girls.  We all had a lovely time climbing the red sandstone.

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The views there were breathtaking.

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Each fall we visit a living historical farm/homestead during their harvest days that had on its large property a farmhouse, a barn, and a one-room schoolhouse and every fall we would attend the harvest festival.  I love going because we get out in Nature AND a history lesson.

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It’s so important to me to share these experiences with my daughters.  I’m not a total ‘roughing it’ kind of gal, and for now, still feel connected to where I live in the relatively quiet suburban town.  But I make it a point to get out to nature as much as we can.

I think it’s really imperative that everyone make time to seek out these natural spaces, diminishing though they may be.

Two of my daughters are in the gifted program in school, and the youngest one may well be next year too.  But more important to me than stuffing their heads with knowledge, is bringing them to places to learn about our natural world to counter-balance the information they are requited to learn with more hands-on exposure to Nature.

So many of their friends are already well-endowed with all types of electronic gadgetry, and I ask them from time to time if they ever get out to any of the places we visit with their families, and they tell me no.  Every time I talk to adults with children, I am always encouraging them to take their kids to natural places explore that aren’t so very far away.

There’s something bubbling up to my consciousness about what it is I want to do with the second half of my life and I plan to talk about it some more as I investigate the kind of vocation I’m more and more feeling called to do.

I’m really feeling it on my heart that I have to start taking some kind of action to help save this planet.  I am not sure where, nor how, but I do know this…I’m tired of being depressed.  I’m tired of feeling anxious.  I’m tired of feeling powerless.  And I’m tired of feeling helpless.

But I know I am of able body, and of (mostly) able mind.  There’s got to be something that I can do and not just be a bystander and watch our world’s natural places and resources be consumed.    I love these natural spaces.  I feel much more grounded, much more connected, much more peaceful out there, in those places than I ever have indoors.  And I don’t want to sit idly by while the voracious technological machine destroys what little we have left.

I want to help reverse this trend of destruction.  I’m not sure how yet, exactly, but I have a few ideas in the works and I’m going to be investigating how be a part of the efforts to conserve our natural world.

I will be sharing my plans for this as I start fleshing them out, so stay tuned if you’re interested.

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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6 Responses to Nature Deficit Disorder

  1. shoe1000 says:

    Thanks for the nice comments on my post today. I too am grateful that I grew up in a small town in Northern California My favorite thing to do was to take my dog, my shotgun or fishing pole and head to the property that had lakes, snakes, deer and quail. I support you saving the world. Let me know if there anything I can do to support you from Northern California.
    Love
    Jim

    • Casey says:

      Thank you so much, Jim.

      I’m glad you enjoy your time in Nature. I’m not a hunter, though I have spent time at the outdoor gun range with my husband. Our shotgun is way too heavy for me, though..

      I am thinking, very strongly, of returning to school to get an ecology degree. I have most of the requirements anyway since i have my B.S. in biotechnology, I’d just have to take maybe a year of ecology-related coursework and fieldwork. I’m going to be going soon to talk to an advisor about it soon at my old university, and see if this is doable. I’d like very much to try, and especially since I love these natural places passionately, and feel so much better outdoors than I do indoors, I would be able to work at something I love and in a location I feel at my best.

      I’m thinking just having positive well wishes for me in this would be help enough, for now.
      But if you could ever get to watch the documentaries I AM by Tom Shadyac and Dirt! the movie and encourage your friends to watch them, I think you might be touched by them too.

      I really appreciate that and I know, from my past experience, that when my intentions are clear and I am strongly motivated, things move in that direction.

      It’s been like this quote from William Hutchinson Murray (often mis-attributed to Goethe):

      “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

      ― William Hutchison Murray

      As long as I remained committed to this goal, I know this will have a great outcome.

      Warmly,

      Casey

  2. shoe1000 says:

    I thought you might this post from a fellow traveler on the road to health
    http://willspirit.com/2014/01/21/growing-out-of-ourselves/

    • Casey says:

      Jim, I’ll be honest, reading that post made me cry.

      I’ve read similar thoughts before, about how our time on earth is such a small window and how the earth will go on in spite of our human destructiveness. And that bacteria are a much more hardy species than we will ever be.

      I’ve tried to make the most of my time here, knowing that it’s limited. Quite honestly, I lived longer than I ever expected to. When I was 18, I ran away from home, walked about 10 miles, nearly certain I might end my life that night. The only thing that kept me going was the idea that I could pretend all the terrible things in my homelife that were happening to me were like in a movie and I was deeply curious as to what would happen if I stuck around. I have three beautiful and smart daughters and a husband who, though he had his own struggles, is overall a good man and father.

      There’s a quote that that post made me think about.

      “Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows.”

      ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

      To understand what this means, you can read this excerpt from a book called Lovingkindess by Sharon Salzberg::

      “The great Indian teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj once said, “Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows.” “I am nothing” does not mean that there is a bleak wasteland within. It does mean that with awareness we open to a clear, unimpeded space, without center or periphery–nothing separate. If we are nothing, there is nothing at all to serve as a barrier to our boundless expression of love. Being nothing in this way, we are also, inevitably, everything. “Everything” does not mean self-aggrandizement, but a decisive recognition of interconnection; we are not separate. Both the clear, open space of “nothing” and the interconnectedness of “everything” awaken us to our true nature. This is the truth we contact when we meditate, a sense of unity beyond suffering. It is always present; we merely need to be able to access it.”

      Thank you for sharing that link. I’ll be reading more of his posts.

      Blessings to you and yours,

      Casey

  3. shoe1000 says:

    Casey,
    Finding your blog has been one of the wonder full finds I have made here in a long time. Your zeal for life is heartwarming and up lifting. Your openness and honesty make me smile and cry. I so love reading your words.
    Jung talked about the sacred. I see you see nature that way and so do I. I also understand how it can be found in art, music and other things. I am now in a Ph.D program studying depth psychology because it is important that I,like you, try to help the world heal from our wounds.
    Depth psychology tries to help us connect to that sacred in US!
    I look forward to your work and sharing this journey with you. I love your writing and support you in your journey.
    I do believe I can heal the world. I just have to realize and remind mysefl I can only do it one step at a time.

    • Casey says:

      Jim,

      My zeal for life has been coupled with some hefty self-doubt and anxiety as well.

      Come to think of it, maybe my zeal for life has been because I have experienced the darkness that I have. I do my best to live a full life though I experience inner unrest and insecurity. I think this is just how it is for me, for now.

      Another quote comes to mind:

      “When I take a long look at my life, as though from outside, it does not appear particularly happy. Yet I am even less justified in calling it unhappy, despite all its mistakes. After all, it is foolish to keep probing for happiness or unhappiness, for it seems to me it would be hard to exchange the unhappiest days of my life for all the happy ones. If what matters in a person’s existence is to accept the inevitable consciously, to taste the good and bad to the full and to make for oneself a more individual, unaccidental and inward destiny alongside one’s external fate, then my life has been neither empty nor worthless. Even if, as it is decreed by the gods, fate has inexorably trod over my external existence as it does with everyone, my inner life has been of my own making . I deserve its sweetness and bitterness and accept full responsibility for it.”

      ~ Hermann Hesse, Gertrude

      Yes, Jung is wonderful. Hesse was analyzed by Jung, so if you haven’t explored Hesse’s writings, it might be a good idea to investigate that angle.

      I’m definitely intrigued with your getting your Ph.D. in depth psychology (and I wonder why all the fascinating people have to live so far away from me….).

      I have a few of Jung’s books…too, though mostly I haven’t yet tilled that fertile soil. It’s on my list of things to explore. For now, I get most of my knowledge about Jung’s ideas second-hand, through Clarissa Pinkola Estes and James Hollis and of course, Hesse.
      .
      I hope you and I can remain connected. I think what you are learning is fascinating…so I’m going to be reading more of your blog. Thanks so much for the dialogue. Looking forward to more, with you.

      Casey

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